In Atlantic City a few weeks ago I picked up a bunch of 1976-77 Topps basketball cards and decided to work toward collecting the set. Set collecting gives you an opportunity to request autographs from former players who you might not ordinarily contact.
The 1976 Topps basketball set offers some unique challenges to complete. There are only 144 cards, which should make it easier to finish than most baseball and football sets. However, there are 45 cards that requires signatures from Hall of Famers and 30 former players featured in the set have passed away including Hall of Famers Wes Unseld, Bob Lanier, Paul Westphal, Pete Maravich, John Havlicek, Lou Hudson, Jo Jo White, and Jerry Sloan.
The cards make for great autographs as they are the larger than most cards produced by Topps measuring 3-1/8” x 5-1/2”. Key cards in the set include Julius Erving (#1) David Thompson’s rookie card (#110) and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (#100). Cards #126-135 were a subset of All-Stars which led to multiple cards for many Hall of Famers including Abdul-Jabbar, Erving, Maravich, Dave Cowens, Rick Barry, and Nate Archibald.
I made the decision to go for the “low hanging fruit” early on in my journey and picked up about 35 cards of guys I knew were pretty reliable signers through the mail. Unlike previous set endeavors I decided to purchase the cards in small lots and send them out immediately to be signed rather than acquire the complete set first and send out cards once the set had been finished.
If you are working on a signed set or have any extra 1976 Topps basketball cards you want to send my way drop me an email at [email protected].
Here’s the first batch of TTM success for my set I received this week.
TTM Successes this Week
I can only imagine the photo session where this photo was taken.
“OK Jim we are going to try something. Put on those awful looking warmups, stand here against this prison-like white cinder block wall, bounce the ball a few times and look up at me and give me that ‘are you kidding me’ look. Perfect!”
“There’s your basketball card picture for next year. How many 8×10 copies do you want for your friends and family?”
Hey, it was the 70s, what can we say?
Chones played 10 seasons in the ABA and NBA after getting selected by the Lakers in the 2nd round of the 1973 draft out of Marquette. He made the ABA All-Rookie First Team in 1973 with the New York Nets and won a NBA championship with the Lakers in 1980. After retiring Chones went on to spend 11 season on TV as Cavs color analyst and most recently as radio postgame analyst for the team.
Chones signed my card in about one week.
Mix played 13 seasons in the NBA with Detroit, Denver, Philadelphia, Milwaukee, and the Lakers from 1969-1983. He was an NBA All-Star in 1975 as a member of the 76ers. He played in four NBA Finals but never won a championship.
Mix has been a friend to the TTM community for many years and signed my card in less than a week.
Nater was selected in the first round of the NBA draft in 1973 by the Milwaukee Buck despite never starting a game in college. He passed on playing in the NBA and started his professional career in the ABA when he graduated from UCLA in 1973.
Nater was a force with the San Antonio Spurs and New York Net winning ABA Rookie of the Year in 1974 and making two ABA All-Star team in two of his three seasons in the league.
After the merger he played for Milwaukee, Buffalo, San Diego, and the Lakers before playing in Italy in 1984 and 1985. He led the NBA in rebounds in 1980.
Nater has been a fantastic signer through the mail for the past few years and returned my card in about a week.
Adams spent his entire career (1975-88) as a member of the Phoenix Suns. He won NBA Rookie of the Year in 1976 as was a key member of the ’76 Suns team that lost to the Celtics in the NBa Finals that season. He is the Suns’ franchise leader in games played, minutes, rebounds, and steals and second in points scored with over 13,900. The Suns retired his number 33.
Adams is a fantastic TTMer. He signed my card and returned it in about 10 days.
After being taken in the 1975 draft by the Lakers as the 8th overall pick, Bridgeman was traded to Milwaukee in a package of players for Abdul-Jabbar. He would go on to have a very successful playing career with the Bucks and Clippers from 1975-1987. The Bucks retired his number 2 after his playing days were over. Bridgeman is one of the most successful former NBA players off the court, owning over 100 Wendy’s and Chili’s restaurants, Coca-Cola bottling operations in Canada and other ventures.
The affable Bridgeman is a great TTMer and signed my card in less than a week.
Hollins was selected by the Portland Trailblazers with the 6th overall pick in the 1975 draft and would go on to play 10 seasons in Portland. After his playing days he has coached for numerous teams and is currently an assistant coach with the Houston Rockets.
In the TTM world Hollins is noted for his inscriptions and he didn’t disappoint this time adding seven of them including “#14 Retired and ’76 All-Rookie Team.” How great is that?
He signed in blue pen and returned my card in a week.
Beard was taken in the 1st round (10th overall) of the 1969 draft out of Louisville by the Atlanta Hawks. He would go on to play for Cleveland, Seattle, Golden State before finishing out his career with the Knicks from 1975-1979. He won an NBA championship with the Warriors in 1975 and he played in NBA All-Star game in 1972 as a member of the Cavs.
He signed and returned my card in about 10 days.
For Celtics fan it’s a bit strange to see Ford in a Detroit Pistons uniform. Ford actually played seven years with the Pistons before joining Boston in 1978 via a trade for Earl Tatum in October 1978. Ford would go to win an NBA championship with the Celtics in 1981 as a player and two as an assistant coach with the team.
While he was a member of the Pistons, he appeared in the film The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh along with Piston teammates Bob Lanier, Eric Money, John Shumate, Kevin Porter and Leon Douglas.
On October 12, 1979, as a member of the Celtics, Ford hit the first three-point shot in NBA history vs the Houston Rockets in the first quarter of a game at famed Boston Garden.
Ford is an outstanding TTMer and signed my card in about a week.
Please note: Most athlete mailing addresses are available on several TTM related web sites including SportsCardForum.com and SportsCollectors.net.
Here are a few more former players who are currently signing for free. I have had success with all of them in the past:
- Danny Darwin –Rangers and Red Sox pitcher
- Franklin Stubbs – Dodgers 1st baseman
- Gail Goodrich – Lakers guard, Basketball Hall of Famer
- Aubrey Huff – Giants and Rays
- Charles Nagy –Cleveland Indians pitcher
- Floyd Bannister –Seattle Mariners pitcher
- Tom Kelly – Longtime Twins manager
- Ernie Whitt – Catcher, Toronto Blue Jays
- Don Money – Infielder, Phillies and Brewers
- Manny Mota –Dodgers pinch-hitting specialist and outfielder
- Ron Guidry – Former New York Yankees ace
- Andre Thornton – First baseman, Cubs and Indians
- John Wathan – Catcher and manager, Kansas City Royals
Have a TTM success story you would like to share with me? Please, send it me at [email protected]. If I use it in my column, I’ll send you a prize.
On This Week’s TTM Cast
TTM Cast co-host Drew Pelto is back on the podcast this week after two weeks traveling the country visiting 18 different ball parks and getting over 500 (!?!) autographs.
Jeff Owens, Editor of Sports Collectors Digest joins the show to review the recent National Sports Collectors Convention in Atlantic City. We also take a look at what’s going on in in the hobby and provide a critical eye on some problems.
Clemente Lisi joins me for another addition of Corner Kicks discussing trends in soccer collectibles as we approach the World Cup in November.
Next week, Mike Gioseffi from Sports Cards Nonsense and The Ringer podcast network will come on to talk about his take on collecting, his popular podcast and the market between current era and vintage cards.